“Lost time is never found again.”
― Benjamin Franklin
This quote attributed to Ben Franklin, who, along with many impressive accomplishments, was noted for his wisdom. What he said is as true then as it is today; there are only so many hours in the day and every second that is wasted is gone forever.
Lost time and mismanaged processes continue to be a thorn in the side of many businesses, especially, those where equipment or specialty tools need to be used and accounted for on a daily basis to get the job done.
Now, with the presence of tags and tool tracking software, many time-wasting activities and undesirable situations can be eliminated.
Tool Tracking & Management Is Essential
In the past, why wasn’t the right tool at the right place at the right time to calibrate, sever, tighten, pound, punch, measure ... causing work that was halting, imperfect, delayed or didn’t start at all? Because:
- placement was somewhere else,
- tool repair was needed,
- someone forgot,
- picking was inaccurate,
- inventory was low,
- and other
Even today, these seemingly minor fluctuations often are judged trivial, but to the contrary, they can have disproportionately large WIP (Work In Process) and ROI consequences. Inadequate tools and tool absence on the job is not a small matter. Tool management is essential through software that enables the foresight to have tools in condition and handy for productivity and growth.
For example, all sorts of businesses have service vans: plumbing companies, electrical companies, building contractors, to name a very few.
Years ago, the first order of business before going to a job was to pencil/paper check all items in the van, a time-consuming, error-prone task.
Today, to check inventory on a service van, service personnel need only to tag their tools with tags such as Metalcraft's Universal Micro tag and turn on an RFID reader and information for all inventory in the van will be read and transmitted in real-time to tool management software.
If software indicates all items match and are, therefore, loaded, the van is ready to go; if not, adjustments are made before the van leaves the staging area.
Employees Can Be More Efficient
On the job, the bottom line is personnel will arrive faster, will have the required tools and materials, will have less downtime because of bottlenecks, and will have less stress. As a result, the job will be done sooner and, sometimes, with a better quality of workmanship. Everybody wins: workers, the customer, and the business.
Taking another step, the following example shows how using tool software goes further, subtly affecting worker health and satisfaction plus enterprise efficacy.
Jerrod, an expert carpenter on a building crew, has been on the job for 20 years. Over that time, he has used a hammer for 24,000 hours, conservatively.
At 39 years of age, he chooses a wooden-handled hammer because wood handles do not deliver the intense impact to a shoulder joint that steel-handled hammers do.
His company’s tool software ensures wooden handled hammers will be in the company’s service van where ever Jerrod may be. That hammer will follow him job to job and crew to crew.
To the company’s advantage, such specialization in picking van loads and tracking will keep Jerrod
- working longer without fatigue and injury
- lessen his sick-leave time: both advantages to his company’s bottom line.
To justify the specialized purchase, the company software would also show that Jerrod is an experienced carpenter who will not break wooden handles like an inexperienced workman might.
Enterprises are efficient and ROI benefits when conditions are satisfied through the foresight that software gives. Enterprises face efficiency and ROI consequences when hindsight prevails.
Using RFID (identification) labels on tools coupled with tool software, management is able to have foresight into factors that would disrupt WIP, intercept those factors at onset and correct. Where is the tool? Is it in good repair and safe? Foresight in such matters is prudent for profitability.
In general, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is technology that uses radio waves to detect and identify an object including location and condition. In application, RFID relates to a system that consists of a reader (scanner), a tag (label), and computer software. Sometimes, systems also include other technologies as well such as QR codes, barcodes, GPS, and sensors in tandem with RFID.
Therefore, the advantages of RFID tool management systems extend to:
- access on demand to where the tool is located (Where was the last place the power hammer was sent?)
- real time reads that allow fast record processing (upload) and time stamping. Combined, these two features allow management to know where tools are, who is using them, where they are being used and for what. In some cases, tag serialization makes for even more efficiency. (Did the pulleys arrive on location fast enough to draw the load onto the skids according to contract?)
- fast scanning that does not require surface and line-of-sight reading allowing for all tools in bins or encased to be read at once if tagged and in the reader’s working perimeters (What tools were in the bin we sent for disaster relief and did they arrive?)
- access on demand of tool data using secure Cloud technology (Were all tools we sent to various locations calibrated?)
- timely accounting of inventory, tool condition, warranties (I thought we had ordered three more jackhammers. Where’d they go?)
- productive human relationships (We need X on this job, not there. He doesn’t get along with Y.)
- less paper (Hey, I can actually read Bill’s equipment request!)
Often for large business enterprises, RFID systems have long RFID read ranges that survey large areas at once (feet measurements) and transmit data constantly. Unfortunately, these systems also have high reader price tags, high installation costs, and service bills.
Fortunately, an RFID alternative exists for small businesses that want the advantages of RFID but can’t afford the price.
Small Businesses Can Use NFC For Tool Tracking
This alternative is NFC (Near Field Communication). NFC systems use tags and specially designed NFC readers or smartphones.
Using RFID principles, the tag can only be read within the range of the NFC reader or smartphone, approximately 4 inches. Obviously, truckload or warehouse floors cannot be read and processed by NFC systems: NFC tagged items need close reads.
Nevertheless, tags can be read quickly without direct line-of-sight just like RFID tags, an advantage over barcodes and QR codes. Holding a portable NFC reader close to items while hovering over tool kits, walking along warehouse shelving, or surveying drawers will send accurate data to tool management software for processing.
For small businesses wanting the advantages of RFID, NFC systems are a feasible tool management alternative. With them or with RFID, wise business management will account for the nails, the hammers, the pliers, the spades, the whatevers and WIP will continue until all jobs are completed.